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Justice Department Challenges Texas Voter ID Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Attorneys for the Justice Department and the state of Texas had a showdown in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday over a new Lone Star State law that requires voters to show a photo ID before they cast a ballot.

In what many view as a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 legislation that protects minorities, Texas passed a law that requires voters to possess a driver’s license, a passport or another form of photo ID.

The two sides ended up in federal court when the Justice Department moved in March to block implementation of the law, and Texas sued.

The issue has been the subject of partisan debate for decades.  Republican supporters of the law say it prevents fraud, while Democrat opponents say the rule unfairly targets minorities, most of whom vote Democratic.

Democrats say many members of the minority community do not have a driver’s license or passport.  The Democrats also say voter fraud is a rare occurrence and passing a law to prevent such an infrequent event would disenfranchise thousands.

Attorney Adam Mortara, representing the state of Texas, told the three-judge panel that “no one is stopped from voting by these laws.”  He argued that the Justice Department’s position that a photo-ID requirement disproportionately affects minority voters is based on “flawed analysis.”

Mortara told the judges, “There is no actual ID disparity between the races or ethnic groups.”

Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Westfall argued that the Texas law would make things difficult for the state’s 1.4 million voters who don't have a photo ID.

She told the court, “Texas is unable to meet its burden of showing that the law will not have a discriminatory affect.”

Texas is just one of a number of states with Republican-controlled legislatures that have passed or are developing new laws designed to prevent voter fraud.

The hearing is scheduled to last five days, and a ruling is expected by next month.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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